FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The Arkansas fans filed into Razorback Stadium early Saturday afternoon in a mood as gloomy as the gray skies that settled over the stadium. They were expecting more calamity for their football team, which started the season ranked No. 8, and calamity was what they got.
No. 1 Alabama added to the turmoil surrounding the Arkansas program, which once was considered a contender for the SEC championship, by treating the Razorbacks like one of the smaller Division I programs on its schedule. The Crimson Tide held the Razorbacks, who were playing without starting quarterback Tyler Wilson, to 137 total yards and thumped Arkansas, 52-0.
“I really don’t know what to say,” said John L. Smith, the Razorbacks’ coach. “I didn’t know what to say to our team as well. It’s kind of hard to say anything at this point.”
Six months ago, fall weddings were planned not to conflict with this game. This was supposed to be a get-even game for Arkansas under Bobby Petrino after some lopsided losses to the Crimson Tide. It was an opportunity to establish the Razorbacks as a national power. Tickets in the upper deck were fetching $300.
On April 10, Petrino, then the team’s coach, was fired after a motorcycle accident and the revelation that he was involved in an affair with an employee. Smith quit his job as Weber State coach and was given a 10-month contract, which had to create some anxiety on the coaching staff about their futures. On top of that, Smith said he declared bankruptcy because of failed business deals.
Last Saturday, after Wilson was knocked out of the game against Louisiana-Monroe with a concussion, the Razorbacks gave up a three touchdown lead and lost in overtime, 34-31.
Against Alabama, things got much, much worse for Arkansas. The Razorbacks (1-2, 0-1 SEC) committed five turnovers and were bludgeoned at the point attack by the Alabama rushing game, which rolled up 225 yards. The Crimson Tide (3-0, 1-0) had 438 total yards and were simply more physical down the middle of the field, tackle to tackle, than the Razorbacks. Arkansas was held scoreless in Razorback Stadium for the first time since a 7-0 loss to Baylor in 1966.
“Do I feel that we at times gave up out there?” Wilson said after the game. “Yeah. Absolutely.” He went on to say that he was disappointed “to see people not do their jobs and things go wrong; there’s been a lot of things gone that way.”
He added: “There’s been a lot of people jump off the bandwagon. It’s my responsibility as a leader to keep everybody in this organization in that locker room together. I’m going to make sure of it going forward.”
Arkansas had trouble Saturday with even the simplest of chores. On their second possession of the game, the Razorbacks were in punt formation when the snap sailed over the head of punter Dylan Breeding. After Breeding kicked the ball through the end zone (an illegal kick), Alabama got the ball on the Arkansas 6-yard line and scored immediately on a run by Eddie Lacy.
It’s early in the season, but in the SEC, 2012 could repeat 2011, when Alabama and LSU battered the rest of the conference before deciding the matter in their own showdown. This year, the teams are scheduled to play Nov. 3 in Baton Rouge. With Arkansas out of the picture, that game is likely determine the winner of the SEC Western Division.